Cave fish found in ‘surprise discovery’ for first time in Europe

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Cave fish found in ‘surprise discovery’ for first time in Europe

Europe’s first cave-dwelling fish has been discovered in a surprise find by a diver in Germany after being hidden from human sight for millennia.

Dubbed the “cave loach” for now, the pale pink, scaleless fish with poor eyesight was found in the huge pitch-black underground Danube-Aach cave system in southern Germany.

The species is thought to have diverged from surface-dwelling fish some 16,000 to 20,000 years ago – very recent in evolutionary terms.

Researchers believe there are some 200 species of cave fish living in various parts of the world, but this is the first time they have been discovered in Europe. Experts were surprised to find one as far north as southern Germany and believe these creatures are the most northern species of cave fish ever discovered.

Diver Joachim Kreiselmaier first spotted the fish in 2015 and happened to have a camera with him to photograph it.

“I had strong lamps with me because I wanted to take photos,” said Mr Kreiselmaier, reported German newspaper Die Zeit.

“When I lit up the fish, I saw on their sides the blood vessels shimmering through. They were clearly less pigmented than lake fish. It was clear to me that it was something special.”

He showed the picture to Dr Jasminca Behrmann-Godel, an expert in fish evolution at the University of Konstanz in Germany. Five of the fish have since been brought back for studying in the laboratory, according to research published in the journal Current Biology.

While only a small part of the 250 sq km underground cavern where the cave loach live can be explored by divers, scientists think there may be thousands more of the species living undisturbed in the region.

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